New pain treatment reduces need for narcotics

Posted at 2:24 PM, Feb 24, 2021

One in seven teens have reportedly misused opioids in high school, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Now, doctors are trying to find a way to prevent that from happening, and it starts with a way to treat pain post-surgery.

"There’s been a lot of concern in society as a whole, but certainly in medicine, particularly with how much narcotic pain medicine is being used,” said Dr. David Partrick, Director of Surgical Endoscopy at Children's Hospital Colorado.

He, along with colleague Dr. Jose Diaz-Miron, is looking at a newly FDA approved device used for teens having surgery to correct pectus excavatum, or a caved in chest. Patients like Matthew Bowar.

"I could see it as the years progressed. It slowly deepened and deepened," said Bowar.

He says he first noticed his chest was caving in when he was about 12. But it wasn’t until last August that it started to become more serious.

"At that point there was a murmur, and they also realized through the pulmonology tests that he had lost 40% of his lung capacity. That’s when we realized this was a really big problem," said Matthew's mother, Ann.

Matthew needed what’s called a Nuss Procedure.

"We put a bar that goes underneath the sternum, and kind of in between the ribs, it’s a ‘C’ shape bar that gets rotated into position, and when we rotate that into position, it instantly pushes the whole sternum out," said Dr. Partrick.

The trial Dr. Partrick and Dr. Diaz-Miron are heading up looks at the way patients manage pain and recovery post-surgery, specifically looking at if there is an alternative to giving patients narcotics.

"We randomly assign one of three treatment groups for post-operative pain control. And one of them is called intercostal cryoablation," said Dr. Diaz-Miron.

The cryoablation essentially freezes the pain receptors in the chest.

"Once it kicks in, it provides continuous numbing sensation to a procedure that’s usually quite challenging to control for pain," said Dr. Diaz-Miron.

It lasts about 30 days. Matthew says he was able to stop taking even just Tylenol and ibuprofen after a week.

"We actually have four boys between the ages of 15 and 22 and so yeah, it’s just, opioids is just not a place you want to go having that in the house," said Ann Bowar.

Both doctors hope that this is something that can be implemented more in the future across the country.

"Recognizing this is one of the more painful procedures potentially that we do, we’re trying to make modifications that decrease the need for those narcotic type pain medications," said Dr. Partrick.